Good Leaders Ask if they Can Be Better

By | March 27, 2018

[March 27, 2018]  Many years ago I learned something many leaders discover only by accident.  I learned those good leaders ask themselves if they can be better leaders – personally do more to succeed and provide better care for those who they are in charge.  This “inward criticism” is an on-going look at ways to improve leadership performance.

There is a danger to this inward criticism.  For leaders who are careless may find themselves self-talked into a downward spiral to depression and misery.  The lose their hard-earned abilities to the negative side of asking themselves if they can do better.  To them, unfortunately, the answer often comes back as “no” – I cannot do better.

For those with a strong will to be a better leader and full of the passion to lead others and make them better, success follows.  When leaders ask themselves this question, they also invite others to provide thoughtful, constructive criticism.  While difficult to accept the intense focus of others on our abilities, the end result can be positive, enabling personal growth.

The study of Winston Churchill, arguably the greatest leader of the Twentieth Century, it is revealed that he was in a constant personal struggle over how to convince others about the evil of Nazi Germany.  In movies, we see him as steadfast, without a doubt in his cause, and a “rock” in the stream of chaos that had enveloped Europe in the lead up to World War II.

He did this with considerable self-doubt and that ate at him over those war years.  Yet, that ultimately is the goal of a good leader; to make improvements in one’s self and continue to strive to greater leadership heights.  That is the roadway to a better human condition and to one that Churchill pushed himself; the final goal for Churchill was the defeat of the Nazi military and the end to a cultural-ending struggle.

There is an important lesson for those looking to be a better leader.  And the lesson is that a continual look inward to methods to be a better leader is the only way of being a better leader.  As we all have learned, there are no shortcuts, hacks, or bypasses to this process and no other method but to look inward.

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

17 thoughts on “Good Leaders Ask if they Can Be Better

  1. Andrew Dooley

    What do leaders ask themselves?
    1. Can I improve upon my personal performance as a leader?
    2. Are there any weaknesses that I need to work on?
    3. Are there strengths that I need to maintain?
    4. What were the lessons I can gain from any recent events in which I was involved?
    5. How can I better take care of those who follow me?
    6. Is there any particular leadership skill that I need help with?
    7. Can a mentor or coach help me get better?
    Many more, of course, but this is not an exercise in self-doubt but in self-improvement.

    1. Army Captain

      Good points here Andrew. Of course, the point is that improvement is both inward and outward focused.

  2. Mark Evans

    THe question “why should leaders ask if they can be better” is a variation on the theme that leadership is learned. And, thus, if learned then it can be improved upon with the right development given at the right time and place. A nice article recently in Forbes helps us get additional support for this idea. It focuses on “millennials”. Good article.

  3. Tony B. Custer

    I think everyone is better off when leaders do their job in a timely, efficient, and effective manner. That’s why we should give our full support to leaders doing good but also let it be known when leaders are not doing a good job. But we also need to remember that we are not always right ourselves and thus should exercise critisim of leaders very carefully.

  4. Jonathan B.

    Hey, Sadako Red, great to hear from you!! You and Gen Satterfield are big advocates for common sense on leadership issues that affect us all. Real leadership is in this blog. Keep up the good works and pushing for leaders to be accountable.

  5. Sadako Red

    People are less inclined to self-examine their thinking and behavior anymore. That explains the predilection of our politicians to exaggerate, lie, cheat, and misrepresent themselves as good folk when they are only in it for the power and money. My series here at shows how the City of Baltimore has done itself great damage by not looking at the root causes of their downward spiral and instead are quick to use a liberal (blame others) ideology to explain all problems away.

  6. Shawn C Stolarz

    This is how we separate the good from the great. The “great” leaders are those who have mastered the idea that one can get better through inward reflection and a strong will to do those things necessary to BE THE BEST YOU CAN BE.

  7. Yusaf from Texas

    Self-improvement is the name of the game where people improve themselves by taking small steps to fix identifiable issues with themselves. The first step is recognizing something to fix; like a bad habit or getting smarter on a particular subject. Leaders, on the other hand, need to push their limits. This is why they must constantly ask themselves if “they can be better.”

  8. Army Captain

    “Be all you can be” was the US Army’s advertising slogan in the 1980s. See one of their commercials here on Youtube: I found the video a funny; the guy’s hair is too long and the sergeant too easy going.

    1. Janna Faulkner

      LOL funny. Yes, it was a hoot to watch.

    2. Tracey Brockman

      I too laughed when I saw this Youtube video. It brought back memories of the pre-911 military.

  9. Joe Omerrod

    This shows that leaders are willing to ask others for help. Mentors, coaches, and teachers are good at helping people be better. Mentors are best for leaders.

  10. Max Foster

    Be better, do better, be the best you can be. This is the philosophy of any good leader.

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